Catherine Stine’s YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One launched in 2012 with illustrations by the author. Her first YA, Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend. More and more, she’s enjoying writing page-turning suspense and speculative tales. Stine has held some colorful jobs, including a stint as a sail-maker, a solar-heated swimming pool cover designer, and a designer of children’s fabrics and watch-faces. Writing, illustrating and teaching are her best gigs ever!
Care to share a nugget of writing wisdom with your readers?
Write from a raw place, just beyond what you know for sure yet intuit strongly. Enter into a place of wonder and horror, love and brutal honesty. Write about things you are passionate about, not to the trends.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I was first published in middle grade fiction, and then in YA. Since I was already a published illustrator, I assumed that I would put out a picture book first, but the story I wanted to tell was always too complex, and I’ve always felt like my truest voice was teen. I’m sure that’s because I’m still trying to work out certain traumas and mysteries from those years. Plus I’m a cynic, yet an optimist, and a romantic, three natural states of teens.
Can you tell us about the book you’re working on? Is it coming easily or have you run into roadblocks?
I’m working on the sequel to Fireseed One, my futuristic thriller. Seven years have passed, and Armonk, the eight year-old from book one is now fifteen. This sequel’s working title is Children of Fireseed. It follows a few of the characters from Fireseed One. It also introduces a new main character, Scarlet, the girl with three missing fingers from the Fireseed cult in the first book. I won’t give away big secrets, but Varik, the main character from book one also has a major role. Although I’m finding it challenging to expand the world-building I started in book one that’s what makes writing so very exciting. I hope to finish it for the holiday season. Wish me luck!
Is any material in your books based on real life experiences or purely imagination?
It’s always an amalgam—strands of me, of strangers, of friends; themes that I know intimately, or want to know more about. For example: guilt, temptation and loyalty are themes I’m fascinated by. I do not subscribe to the saying “Write what you know.” I feel it should be broadened to “write what you know and also what you want to know more about.”
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I had to revise on spec after having an initial, and very intimidating meeting with a group of editors who disagreed on how I should revise. Talk about quaking in ones boots! But it all worked out. I simply took the comments I liked and disregarded ones that made less sense.
How did you celebrate your first book being published? Has the excitement worn off with each book you publish?
I splurged on a space in the National Arts Club in NYC and invited tons of people. It was a blast, but as I go along, it’s more like a great dinner with friends and a book blog tour to follow with online reviewers, friends, fellow authors. The excitement though, never ceases.
Best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Only listen to trusted members of your writing group and editors/agents whom you respect.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I finished a paranormal with an edge of horror and we’ll see whether that comes out first or my sequel, Children of Fireseed. Stay tuned!
Are there certain characters you would like to return to?
Wilson Warren in my newest novel that I just mentioned. He’s an agent of the devil who is funny, charming and handsome in a Marilyn Manson kind of way—tall, dark, alluring and dangerous. I want to spend more time with him!
Who was the hardest character to develop?
Marisa Baron in Fireseed One was tricky to craft, because she starts out as a selfish, misdirected antagonist yet ends up having a huge growth range. I needed to make sure she had some appealing qualities even as a villainess so that you don’t hate her before she transforms. This is always tricky!
Any advice to share with aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself—in your own pure, amazing instinct and the integrity of the story you craft on the page. Don’t rush. Do not send anything out that isn’t completely polished. You only have one chance with each imprint. The inevitable rejection letter or two is tough. All authors receive one at some point. They form a scar across the heart that grows more beautiful with time because it proves you’ve paid your dues.
How do you market your work? What avenues work best for your genre?
Book blog tours, guest posting online, giveaways on Goodreads, school visits, book festivals, and I’m always learning new ways to market from fellow authors.
Do you come up with your book titles?
Often it’s a line from the book. As in the Three Little Bears it shouldn’t be too short or too long, but just right!
What is the easiest part of the writing process? Hardest?
Revision is easiest, and most fun because you are adding layers of color and tightening the story to a lean manuscript. Writing that first draft is the hardest because you’re jack hammering out that crude draft.
Of all your books, what was your favorite chapter to write?
That’s like picking out your favorite child, an impossible task. In Fireseed One it’s when Varik and Marisa share their first kiss. A tiny spoiler, but a good one! I like writing the romantic bits.